“I am black/ I lie down in the shadow” (Hughes, 14-15). Langston Hughes, author of “As I Grew Older,” was African American and was discriminated against until the day he died. In the line above from “As I Grew Older,” he emphasizes the shadow which is preventing the light of his bright dream, like a sun, from shining on him. All Langston Hughes can see is the thick wall and the shadow surrounding him not allowing him to accomplish his dreams throughout his childhood. Langston Hughes is trying to prove and give readers a better understanding of the unfairness, the discrimination against African Americans, how hard it was growing up being treated unfairly, and the affect oppression had on people in the future.
During the Harlem Renaissance one of the themes is the idea of oppression and fighting back trying to get equality. Not only is Langston Hughes trying to fight for equality, but he is also trying to prove black people have a chance to accomplish their dreams just like any other white person in this world. The main idea of this poem looks at achieving dreams and how difficult it is to achieve dreams when being known as an African American. This poem is important in many ways. Hughes shows that just because someone is being discriminated against, he should never give up on anything, he urges to never let anybody be in control of someone’s future, and lastly be sure to always fight for what is right. Hughes grew up in New York’s City’s, Harlem, mostly African American neighborhood which later became a vibrant community of Black artists who drove the Harlem Renaissance. The black people of the community felt that they were treated unfairly. There was a lot of disagreement between Black and White people about African Americans being heavily oppressed and discriminated against.
The Black people of Harlem’s community were eager to try and gain their equality which later influenced Langston Hughes to write angry protest poetry. This fact influences almost every poem he later wrote. The poem starts out by showing the dream as possible at first, but then the “wall” starts to rise slowly showing that it seemed less achievable as Langston Hughes grew up. Then he was in the shadows until he realized that he needed to destroy the wall to accomplish his dreams. The poem “As I Grew Older” is very straightforward, but there are many visual images.
One is a metaphor; the “wall” Langston Hughes is referring to represents or compares the oppression by whites during the Harlem Renaissance. “Bright like a sun-” (5), an example of a simile that helps the reader have a better understanding of the poem; by comparing his dream to the sun he emphasizes how bright his dreams were before a bearing wall was put upon him. Lastly, personification is also being used. An example of a personification from the poem is, “I lie down in the shadow” (15). Using “I lie down in the shadow” makes the reader understand the effects of discrimination on human beings and how hurtful it was putting these people through a hard time. In this piece of writing there is no particular rhyme scheme.
Since there is no rhyme scheme, repetition of many words are used like rose, dream, dark hands, shadow and many more. Words are being repeated to emphasize the effects of being black and how horrible it was. Also the repetition of words are a linking device to help readers remember themes. There are no specific amount of beats per line. Only one stanza in free verse with no specific amount of words per line, and no same length of lines. There are no specific beats, words, and same length per line because it allows Langston Hughes to show more emotion within each line. For example a longer line could be used to describe a feeling better instead of just using one word. The rhythm reflects the speaker’s emotion.
For example there are lines that are short, breaking the rhythm; such as lines like, “Rose slowly/Slowly” (8-9). “Rose slowly/slowly” shows how painful it was for Hughes to talk about his childhood. An example of an alliteration is, “Help me to shatter this darkness/To smash this night/ To break this shadow” (24-26). The effect of the alliteration is to emphasize the harshness of the poets place in life through shatter, smash, and shadow. These words also reflect an onomatopoeia, the words smash and shatter are words that sound like a noise. An example of an assonance is, “Between me and my dream” (10).
The repeated vowel sound is of the “e” in me and dream. “As I Grew Older” showed many sound devices, unique rhythm of the poem, no rhyme scheme that in place repetition was used, and the pattern of lengths of lines. The theme and tone go hand and hand with each other. The theme is the painful childhood Hughes went through not accomplishing his dreams because of his color; during the Harlem Renaissance African Americans were not accepted. But then he later finds hope to overcome his childhood and being discriminated against. The tone of the poem starts out with a lot of darkness in the beginning, Hughes struggles talking about his childhood with a lot of pauses because it was painful.
Then toward the end the tone shifts to having hope and light to be able to accomplish his dreams and overcome the painful memories as a child. Throughout the poem of “As I Grew Older” Langston Hughes expresses how difficult it was to be African American during the Harlem Renaissance. Not only was Hughes trying to give the reader a better understanding of what it was like being discriminated and treated unfairly, he also tried to teach a lesson to never give up no matter the situation life throws at someone. Langston Hughes lived a painful childhood of being discriminated against and always felt like he was never good enough and it stuck with him the rest of his life.
Hughes poem “As I Grew Older” expressed the feelings of what it’s like to not have equality and rights that White Americans have; showing people who are more fortunate than others to appreciate the things they have been given and to not take it for granted because there are people who are receiving hurtful actions to them everyday.